Last month, after a Health and Human Services proposal which appeared to equate birth control with abortion was leaked to the press, we got whipped up in a frenzy of righteous indignation. Now HHS secretary Mike Leavitt is saying that he never saw the memo before it leaked, and that he intended the proposal, which he asked unnamed staffers to draft, to focus on "the protection of practitioner conscience," not the definition of birth control. In other words: he wants to protect the right of a doctor to not prescribe birth control or refer women for abortions if it is against his or her religious beliefs. Because that's so much better, Mr. Leavitt!
Just to refresh everyone's memory, here is what the leaked memo said: "The Department proposes to define abortion as 'any of the various procedures — including the prescription and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.'"
Leavitt doesn't refute the idea that this is what the Bush Administration's HHS department believes, he merely says, in a blog post on the HHS website, that "the issue I asked to be addressed in this regulation is not abortion or contraceptives." He prefaces that with the sentence, "The Bush Administration has consistently supported the unborn." That reminds me of Beetlejuice when they continuously refer to the "undead," as a race of people. His language is appalling. He's calling them "unborn" like you'd refer to "the Jews" or "the Chinese." They're a bunch of frickin cells, dude. They're not a group of people.
Leavitt wants to ensure that medical practitioners have the right "to practice according to their conscience, and patients should be able to choose a doctor who has beliefs like his or hers." I made a similar point with the original post on the HHS memo, but what if I were diabetic and all the doctors at the hospital in my small town thought that giving me insulin was disrupting God's plan for me? The same thing can go for birth control, because, as many Jezebel commenters pointed out, birth control has many non-sex-related uses, like regulating fibroids.
Katha Pollitt put in her two cents on the Bush administration's "Stealth Assault On Reproductive Rights" on the Nation's website earlier this week. Mike Leavitt's "respect for moral beliefs only goes one way. A Catholic hospital has no corresponding obligation to hire pro-choice workers or accommodate their moral beliefs by permitting them to offer emergency contraception to rape victims or hand out condoms to the HIV positive," Pollitt raged. "A 'crisis pregnancy center' would not have to hire pro-choice counselors who would tell women that abortion would not really give them breast cancer or leave them sterile. Only anti-choicers, apparently, have moral beliefs that entitle them to jobs they refuse to actually perform."
Pollitt provides a link to more info and how to help make sure our reproductive rights are upheld, and I'll do the same. Also provided with this post is a picture of Mike Leavitt's thin-lipped, smug little face, (above) so that you can fantasize about kicking him in the nards. That's one kind of religiously sanctioned birth control I can get behind!
HHS Chief Denies New Rule To Attack Contraception [Reuters]
Stealth Assault On Reproductive Rights [The Nation]
Fight Bush's Proposed Anti-Birth Control Regulations! [Reproductive Health Reality check]